I knew I was going to love “Blessed Are the Crazy” when a random sponsored ad took me to Sarah Griffith Lund’s author page on Facebook. It had all the elements of books I am drawn to, and most vitally, it tells a story that it takes guts to talk about. Ms. Lund’s story begins when she was a child and her mentally-ill father wrecked havoc on his family, even when he and Sarah’s mother separated and he drifted in and out of her life. She goes through the years of confusion and fear about why her father was the way he was, realization of his illness, and gradually, slowly, learning from him. She also writes about her brother who seemed to “inherit” his father’s illness, which eventually cost him his wife, career, and emotional stability. One of the most profound parts of the book is when Ms. Lund acknowledges how brave her brother is by choosing to stay alive when all he wanted to do was die. This is something so many people fail to realize when it comes to severe mental illness, when just breathing is an act of heroism, the ultimate self-sacrifice. Also included in this little, extremely powerful book is the story of Ms. Lund’s cousin who was executed at age 30 and the evolution of her own spirituality.
As a person of faith, Ms. Lund works through so many thoughts and questions I have had other the years about God and mental illness. One thing I really loved was her thoughts on how everyone has a cross to bear, and for so many, that cross is mental illness. It makes songs like “Oh, the Wonderful Cross” fall flat and those little pretty silver cross necklaces trite. Ms. Lund writes, “…You can buy porcelain or jeweled crosses with Bible quotes….but what about a cross that looks crazy, that looks ugly? Not as reflective of a crazy or ugly God, but one that represents the craziness and ugliness of our burdens that we bear?” It made me think about what the original cross represented and looked like. It was where criminals hung to die. Jesus’ cross was painted red with his gore, his skin nailed against the wood with spikes. When he was forced to carry up the hill, he fell, and a man named Simon of Cyrene had to help him. Jesus needed someone to carry his cross with him. Imagine how much more do we need others to help us.
My family has been there to carry my cross of mental illness, and it has not left them without scars. Reading what I write about mental illness and my history with it is often extremely difficult for them. I wouldn’t be alive without them.